You know that scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy discovers that she doesn’t need some mythical ruler to help her get back home, but that the power to realize her deepest, most heartfelt desires lies within herself? That’s what moving to Australia did for me. I was 23, newly freed from an emotionally abusive relationship, and stuck in a job that I knew wasn’t a good use of my skills and passions. So, as one does, I searched Google for “jobs for US citizens in Australia” and found myself, a mere 60 days later, being picked up at the airport to start my year as an au pair.
After about six months, I started to think more seriously about what would be next. If I wanted to stay in Australia long term (and boy, did I ever), I had to be more intentional with my time, my plans and my finances. I was able to use my days off work to intern for International Justice Mission Australia, a non-profit organization that works to end all forms of violent oppression in the developing world. It was in this internship that I felt most at home, and I was certain that the non-profit sector was the place for me.
The reality of non-profit organizations, though, is that they often don’t have room to add more staff to their offices. While I loved International Justice Mission Australia and loved my home in Sydney, I knew they wouldn’t be able to offer me the type of job I needed to stay.
In November 2014, I married my Australian boyfriend, just one year after we began dating. We started the long, arduous process of applying for my permanent residency, and as he settled back into his normal routine, I started learning to build my own. I felt a little bit lost; I was simultaneously totally in love with my new home and the man I had chosen to share it with, but also confused about my career path and doubtful of my abilities to land a good job. And then, I got sick. Just four months after we were married, I was diagnosed with a chronic metabolic disorder. At the time, my symptoms were out of hand, and my only option was to not pursue full-time work.
I started volunteering in an administrative capacity for our church, which eventually led to a part-time staff position that allowed me to work from home. For a while, that was enough. Throughout 2015, as I battled health issues alongside the stress of moving permanently to a different country, I started to feel as if my purpose had faded away, and with it, my worth. I knew that the things I loved most passionately were writing and serving, but I couldn’t see how those things translated into a viable career.
Slowly but surely, I started realizing that true success wasn’t actually about my job title or my salary, but my contentment with how I was using my time and how well I was able to serve others with my skills. As with all good things in life, this is a process for all of us. It’s still a process for me! As I have begun to write more, working on an eBook, finding the courage to contribute to websites like Mavenly, and as I pursue opportunities to work and volunteer with a non-profit pregnancy resource center, I have seen myself come to life. I have seen myself come home.
These are the things I know: if the process is scary, it’s probably worth it. Deciding to pursue writing in a professional way, on any level, and deciding to pursue work in the non-profit sector are not easy tasks. As creative women on a mission, not all of the things we attempt will be easy, but a surefire sign that we’re on the right track is when it starts to get daunting. This doesn’t make us careless people stumbling blindly; it means we’re brave and strong and willing to do what it takes to live fully. If you fail, it means you made a tangible effort. Setbacks make room for growth, and absolute failure points to an effort that was real and heartfelt.
From the beginning of any venture, whether it’s a new business, a creative project, or a new job in an established office, there’s room for failure and success in equal parts. And while an easy road to success might be the preferred route, it won’t be the one that helps you flourish the most. Home is more than just a place, and the ability to get there is already in you.
In the past two years, I’ve overcome a horrible relationship and a dead-end job. I’ve moved overseas and married a great man. I’ve gotten really sick and fought hard to love my life in all its seasons. Like Dorothy, I’m on a yellow brick road that is long and seemingly endless, a feeling I know I’m not alone in having. But as you think about the places where your heart feels most at home, the work those places entail, and the joy they bring, remember that you are already strong enough, and already brave enough, to arrive there.